Escape the Creative Rut with Staci Swider

We’ve all had our share of artistic ruts, and it’s always nice to have a helping hand to pull us out. To the rescue today is Staci Swider, who loves sharing her amazing mixed-media painting skills through her book, videos, and downloadable projects. In this guest blog, Staci offers great advice on how to get out of a creative rut, featuring some fun painting techniques. Be sure to check out her outstanding products below! ~ Jeannine

I’m not going to lie—I went through one of the longest artist blocks that I thought would never end. I felt that painting flowers was getting a little stale, and I wanted to incorporate other elements, such as houses and animals, to interject more storytelling into my paintings. Don’t get me wrong, I was still working and creating, but nothing felt right. Everything that fell out of the end of my paintbrush seemed forced.

Escape the Creative Rut with Staci Swider
“Take Me Home”

At some point I said to myself, “Swider, you wrote a book that addressed this exact problem. Maybe you need to revisit some of your own advice.” I opened Acrylic Expressions: Painting Authentic Themes and Creating Your Visual Vocabulary and read it as if for the first time. I set aside my preconceived ideas for subjects (flowers), and thought about using paint drips to divide my paintings in new ways.

The following is my process for using dripped paint to orient the subject of the painting and divide my compositions. I’ve also included a few examples of new paintings that are the result of the new process. I’m still working to refine my technique, and the more I work at it, the looser the painting and more positive the results.

  • I start by editing out all the white on my painting surface. In this example, I used red and yellow washes. I then dripped red paint, using a squeeze bottle along one edge. While the paint was still very wet, I turned the board 90 degrees to allow the paint to drip perpendicularly.

  • I then identified large shapes, using different colored oil pastel. I emphasized lines to denote distant hills in the upper left quadrant, a house in the upper right, small trees, and a fence across the bottom. At this point I felt that a little arbitrary color placement was needed, so I glued down a few pieces of previously painted watercolor paper that I keep in my studio for just such a situation.

  • From there, it was a matter of filling in the shapes created in the first two steps using a variety of color. Here are some details from the piece:

And here is the finished piece:

Staci Swider’s work reinterprets the patterns and textures found in function-driven objects, such as quilts and baskets, as dreamscape imagery that straddles the line between figurative and abstract. Her work has been exhibited at the Morris Museum of Art as well as many galleries across the Southeast. Staci’s book, Acrylic Expressions, and her four instructional painting videos are available at Visit Staci’s website at

Try this idea the next time you find yourself in a creative rut. Enjoy more of Staci’s artwork, and treat yourself to her fantastic videos, book, and downloadable projects to learn more remarkable techniques for using acrylic paint and mixed media!

“11 Green St.”
“Waldo B.A.D.”
“Johnson’s Swimming Hole”
Become the painter you’ve always wanted to be. In Acrylic Expressions, Staci Swider shows you how to create a unique style and visual vocabulary using fun and fascinating techniques.
In the video Acrylic Painting Studio: Painting Negative Space you’ll complete two paintings, starting with an underpainting and layering texture and color, then creating a negative space design.
Producing several cohesive works is easy, using the ideas in the video Acrylic Painting Studio: Working in a Series with Staci Swider. Create three small paintings using the same focal image, but incorporating different mixed-media techniques.
Mixed-Media Acrylic Painting is a fantastic downloadable collection of articles from Cloth Paper Scissors, Zen Doodle Workshop, and Faces magazines that will show you how far you can take acrylic painting. Start with essential information on the different types of paints and brushes, then dive into exciting projects, all with step-by-step photos and instruction.


Blog, Mixed-Media Painting Techniques, Mixed-Media Techniques


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